Hello! Happy first day of fall. It’s very sad that summer’s gone, but now there will be piles of leaves to jump in. That’s not much consolation, I know. Maybe reading a book will help!
Sabriel, by Garth Nix
“‘Go and give the regimental Sergeant Major my compliments and ask him to personally organize a section of the scouts. We’ll go out and take a closer look at that aircraft.’ ‘Oh, thank you sir!’ gushed Leftenant Jorbert, obviously taking the ‘we’ to include himself. His enthusiasm surprised Horyse, at least for a moment. ‘Tell me, Mr. Jorbert,’ he asked, ‘have you by any chance sought a transfer to the Flying Corps?’ ‘Well… yes, sire,’ replied Jorbert. ‘Eight times.’”
Sabriel is about a girl whose father gets trapped in the world of the dead and she has to go to rescue him. She’s a necromancer, which helps a bit. She has a bunch of magical bells that she can use to make living people and dead spirits do all sorts of things. Being a necromancer also has its drawbacks—it means she has all sorts of enemies who chase her as she tries to reach her goal. So she makes some friends to compensate, including one of the funniest talking cats I saw since Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.
Sabriel had a good beginning and a good middle, with interesting ideas, fresh similes, and funny talking cats. So I thought it would be a decent book overall. However, the end was much better than anything that came before it, so it turned out to be a better book than I’d thought.
Why was the ending better? Maybe because it happened in multiple stages. It wasn’t just “boom boom pow!” At the point when I thought things would be resolved, another setback happened instead. When the characters overcame that setback, they then realized they had to go somewhere else to succeed in their mission. Along the way, the characters kept getting into worse and worse trouble. So the longer ending helped by gradually building tension.
It also helped by giving the author time to build up the characters more, and to reveal some surprises about them before the actual finale. This made them feel more real than they had felt throughout the beginning and middle of the book. The characters weren’t artificially made stupid for the sake of suspense, either. They even seemed smarter than they’d been in previous parts of the book. For instance, in the past, a character had a marked propensity towards procrastinating before setting out somewhere. In a similar situation in the finale, this procrastination was nowhere in sight. I was very excited to see this growth.
Then there were plot twists in the finale that weren’t contrived because they were set up ages in advance (No spoilers, don’t worry).
So the gradual buildup and the character development and the twists all likely helped make the ending better than the beginning and middle. All of these aspects helped make the ending feel earned, and raised the book to a new level of entertainingness in my eyes.
One last note: I would recommend listening to the audiobook version if you can. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Until next week!